Corporal Punishment Critical Thinking
Good and bad ways of punishment
Corporal punishment is the most commonly used form of punishing children all over the world. Its perceived goal is to instill discipline to the child, but many researchers have raised questions about its effectiveness, in the long run (Lenta, 2012). The debate that rises, therefore, involves the question as to whether there are kinds of punishment that are good with better outcomes compared to other forms of punishment perceived to be bad. The justification of modes of punishment takes the form of either retribution or consequentialism. Supporters of the Consequentialists approach note that punishment helps to arrive at a goal that is good. This is deterrence of wrongdoing. A justifiable punishment, in this case, has to arrive at this good end while causing relatively better than harm. A good form of punishment, therefore, results to more benefits than the costs it demands. In the retributivist view, a form of punishment is justifiable since the person doing wrong has a moral responsibility to do right and avoid wrongdoing. Punishment, in this case, is right for older children who have the ability to reason and exercise self-control (Lenta, 2012)
Generally, the effective form of punishment has certain features that researchers agree on. One important aspect is mutual respect. The punishment chosen should enable the fostering of values and good behavior in the child while ensuring that the child has respect to the parents’ authority. This calls for the parent to apply punishment which has a sense of fairness, reasonability and consistency. Without these, respect for the parent by the child is lost.
Bodily Harm Associated With Corporal Punishment
One of the major issues associated with corporal punishment is the nature of physical harm caused to the child. Research has shown that a large number of children die every year annually all over the world as a result of physical harm they get when being punished. The most common forms of corporal punishment such as beating, lashing and even twisting of body parts are likely to cause harm to the body of the child. Though it is viewed as a form of punishment, corporal punishment comes out as a form of child abuse. Research into most abuse cases filed in the judiciary system reveals that physical abuse occurs in the form of punishment. Here, half of the cases involve slapping and spanking of the child, a third of the cases involve pushing or shaking of the child while others involve hitting the children with objects or being kicked. (americanhumane.org)
An issue, therefore, arises in trying to find a distinction between punishment and abuse when talking about corporal punishment. This is because research shows that the children who had been subject to corporal punishment were more likely to be physically abused compared to others who had alternative forms of punishment. It is, therefore, difficult to draw a clear line between the forms of physical violence against children that the society accepts and the forms that are essentially abuse.
The problem here arises due to the fact that the effectiveness of corporal punishment diminishes over time. This means that the child subjected to corporal punishment is likely to develop resistance to the form of punishment being offered. This in turn makes the parent or the individual administering the punishment to be more aggressive or increase the intensity of the violence to the child. After this, the chances of the perceived punishment turning into abuse are high.
Mental Problems Associated With Corporal Punishment
In the execution of corporal punishment, there is the high risk of the chosen kind of punishment being stressful to the child. In most of the research done in this area of corporal punishment, the focus has mostly been on the views of the parents. Is, however, important to approach the issue from the perspective of the recipient of the punishment. Researchers should try to understand the perception that children have about corporal punishment. The goal will be to establish the interpretation that the child has on the decision of their parent to adopt corporal punishment methods when dealing with them. This is because such interpretation has been viewed as an important tool that helps to determine the effect that corporal punishment has on the mental health of the child (Mulvaney, 2010)
Research has shown that most children have a negative connotation to the corporal punishment given to them. After such an experience, it is common to hear children speak of being lonely, sad, embarrassed, resentful afraid and other negative words that show the effect that the kind of punishment has. In carrying out corporal punishment, the parent usually tempers with the child’s mental mechanism of dealing with stress. A study that centered on the levels of cortisol in children reveals the effects of corporal punishment. Cortisol refers to the enzyme that the body produces in order to effectively deal with a stressful situation, and corporal punishment is such a situation in children. When a child is frequently subjected to corporal punishment, more levels of cortisol are released. This increased level of the enzyme has the effect of giving more stress to the child when an unexpected or frightening event occurs.
In the short term, children who are subjected to frequent corporal punishment are observed to exhibit issues of alcoholism, low self-esteem, and depression. In the long term, the child’s ability to deal with stressful events or occurrences is compromised showing that the effects of corporal punishment extend to adulthood.
Effect to Parent-Child relationship
After corporal punishment is administered to a child, feelings of anger, being anxious and even fear are bound to enter the child. This, therefore, makes many of the children start fearing their parents or avoiding any kind of contact with them.
Research shows that the aftermath of corporal punishment is a damaged relationship between the child and the parents. The association between the two parties becomes low with the children choosing to distance themselves from the parents. This rises from the feelings or perception that the children begin to have that they are not loved by the parents or that the parents are out to intentionally inflict harm upon them. (Levesque, 2015)
Banning of Corporal Punishment
The use of many forms of corporal punishment has been on the decrease in recent times. Practices that condoned the use of physical force in dealing with disagreements between people have been termed as illegal, but the case of corporal punishment still remains an exception in today’s laws and legislations. This is in spite of a huge amount of research that shows the negative impacts of corporal punishment on the children both during their childhood and even in their adulthood. Straus (1999) notes that a research into adults who indulged in antisocial behavior such as alcoholism and drug use revealed that they were recipients of corporal punishment during their childhood.
Over time, the use of corporal punishment has decreased due to the evidence being raised against the practice. More adults are concerned about the possible negative effects it may have on their children. In America, for example, the percentage of parents who admitted to hitting their toddlers decreased to 94% from 97%; while hitting of adolescents decreased to 43% in 1995 compared to 55% in 1975 (Straus, 1999)
Banning the practice, however, is a problem due to the kind of support that some adults in the society still have about the practice. A case in point is in Ohio, where 70% of doctors there support this kind of punishment. The ardent supporters always raise the question as to whether there is a level of corporal punishment that is acceptable. To them, there is an acceptable line that parents should not cross while carrying out corporal punishment in order to maintain the justification of the process.
Alternatives to Corporal Punishment
Many researchers have been quick to point at various options that are available that can give the parent an opportunity to discipline the child without using corporal punishment. One such option is the act of giving rewards due to good behavior by the child. This is because, in the process of punishing the children’s wrong doings, parents are victims of forgetting the good deeds that the children are capable of doing. This kind of positive reinforcement achieved by giving out presents is usually capable of achieving more benefits compared to negative reinforcement achieved by punishing wrong doing (Le François, 2011)
The next option involves being clear about rules of behavior that the child has to follow. Most parents make the mistake of assuming that the child knows what to do and at what time. This leaves space which the child is likely to use and do wrong. The parents, in this case, must strive to eliminate vagueness when it comes to rules. The child needs to know what is exactly expected of them. Giving positive discipline is another option that the parents can take. This essentially involves taking an instant that the child has done some wrong to be an opportunity for teaching the child how to do that thing the right way. The focus here is not on the negativity of the wrongness of the child’s act but the positives that can be learned from the situation. Lastly, parents can adopt the role of being models of what they view as good behavior for their children. This is due to the fact that the children are always watching the mannerisms of the parents meaning that they are likely to copy how the parents talk or behave.
Corporal punishment is an issue that creates debate when carried out especially on children. While the need to discipline the children is important, the effects associated with a mode of punishment such as corporal punishment cannot be ignored. Supporters of this act point at the acceptable level of spanking while critics point at the long term as well as the short effects or impacts of corporal punishment. Apart from corporal punishment, however, there are other various options to choose from in punishing children. The use of corporal punishment, however, remains to be the center of controversy with its perceived effectiveness and effects always pitted against each other.
Levesque, R. J., & R. (2015). The 2013 Elliott youth development lecture. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44(3), 571-572.
Lenta, P. (2012). Corporal Punishment of Children. Social Theory & Practice, 38(4), 689-716:
LeFrancois, G. (2011). Psychology: The Human Puzzle. San Diego, Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Mulvaney, M., & Mebert, C. (2010). Stress Appraisal and Attitudes Towards Corporal Punishment as Intervening Processes Between Corporal Punishment and Subsequent Mental Health. Journal of Family Violence, 25(4), 401-412.
Straus, M. A. (1999). Is it time to ban corporal punishment of children? Canadian Medical Association. Journal, 161(7), 821-2.
Stop children abuse. Americanhumane.org. Retrieved 9 March 2015 http://www.americanhumane.org/children/stop-child-abuse
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